Enlargement Package 2016

November 10th, 2016 § 0 comments § permalink

On 9 November 2016, the European Commission adopted its annual Enlargement Package, which assesses the state of implementation of key political and economic reforms in the countries of the Western Balkans and Turkey.

All reports contain a section on “Judiciary and fundamental rights” and “Justice, freedom and security” and some reports, most importantly the report on Turkey, specifically refer to the situation of lawyers and the lawyer’s profession.

Read more here about the reports’ references to lawyers, the legal profession and legal aid.

Ukraine: EC Support Group Activity Report – The first 18 months

October 28th, 2016 § 0 comments § permalink


The European Commission Support Group for Ukraine published today an Activity Report on the first 18 months of its work. Amongst others, the report provides a summary on reforms spanning anti-corruption and rule of law: “In the justice sector, Ukrainian reform efforts focused on amendments to the Constitution (concerning the judiciary) and – partially linked to that – the vetting of judges and prosecutors. (…) Another main area of reform is the system for the enforcement of judgments. Draft legislation envisages the introduction of a profession of private bailiffs which would coexist for a transitional period with the state enforcement officers. (…) Latterly it has been decided that an overall programme in support of rule of law reform should be developed, in order to bring EU resources to bear in a more comprehensive and effective manner. The new programme is due to start in 2017.”

The report can be downloaded here; see also the EC fact-sheet.

The rule of law chapters will be at the fore of the EU accession negotiations

October 11th, 2016 § 0 comments § permalink


On 26 September 2016, the European Parliament published on its website a briefing entitled “The Western Balkans and the EU. Enlargement and challenges”. It is explained in the paper that evolving enlargement policy of the EU has “set the bar for accession higher for the current candidate, and potential candidate countries – Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Kosovo, Montenegro and Serbia”. One of the novelties is that a new EU approach brings rule of law to the fore, and as from now the rule of law Chapters 23 and 24 will be opened first in the negotiation process. An argument in favour of this approach is that post-accession monitoring has not proved efficient.

European Neighbourhood Policy

November 30th, 2015 § 0 comments § permalink

Johannes Hahn

Commissioner Johannes Hahn

On 18 November 2015, the European Commission issued a Joint Communication to review the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP), taking into account the events of recent years, which have demonstrated the need for a new approach, a re-prioritisation and an introduction of new ways of working. This Joint Communication concludes the formal consultation process on the review of the ENP. The new ENP will take stabilization, built on democracy, human rights and the rule of law and economic openness as its main priority in this mandate. More effective ways will be sought to promote democratic, accountable and good governance, as well as to promote justice reform, where there is a shared commitment to the rule of law, and fundamental rights. Over the course of 2016, the Commission intends to discuss the proposals contained in this Joint Communication, as well as subsequent positions taken by the EU, with partner countries, with a view to jointly determine the shape of their future relations. The full text of the Joint Communication can be read here. ENP countries are listed here.

Enlargement Package 2015

November 23rd, 2015 § 0 comments § permalink

On 10 November 2015, the European Commission released the 2015 Enlargement package – a set of documents explaining its policy on EU enlargement, including country reports.

Overall assessment:

“While there has been important progress over the past year, major challenges remain. With respect to the rule of law, judicial systems are not sufficiently independent, efficient or accountable. Serious efforts are still needed to tackle organised crime and corruption, in particular to establish track records of investigations, prosecutions and final convictions. While fundamental rights are often largely enshrined in law, shortcomings persist in practice. Ensuring freedom of expression is a particular challenge, with negative developments in a number of countries. Public administration reform needs to be pursued with vigour, to ensure the necessary administrative capacity as well as to tackle high politicisation and a lack of transparency. The functioning of democratic institutions also requires attention. There is a need to work even more closely with local civil society actors to anchor reforms across society”.

Country specific assessment of the state of the judiciary:

Albania‘s judicial system is at an early stage of preparation. Substantial shortcomings in the judicial system remain regarding independence and accountability of judges and prosecutors, enforcement of decisions, inter-institutional cooperation, and the administration of justice which remains slow. The next crucial steps for a comprehensive reform of the judicial system are the adoption of a new strategic framework followed by the drafting of the relevant institutional, legislative and procedural measures. The performance of the State Commission for Legal Aid needs to be enhanced so as to cope with the pressing needs of a considerable number of vulnerable citizens. Six regional legal aid offices are yet to be set up.

Bosnia and Herzegovina has some level of preparation when it comes to consolidating a well-functioning judicial system. Following the adoption of the 2014-2018 Justice Reform Strategy, all activities relevant to its implementation need to be launched, including measures to improved judicial independence and efficiency. The country is still missing an effective free legal aid system to guarantee efficient access to justice.

• In Montenegro the judicial system is moderately prepared. Important steps were taken to align the legal framework with European standards, increasing professionalism and independence. A judicial reform strategy (2014-2018) and an accompanying action plan are in place. The full implementation of the new system of recruitment, professional assessment and promotion is now required.

Serbia’s judicial system has reached some level of preparation. The quality and efficiency of the judiciary and access to justice are, however, hampered by an uneven distribution of workload, a burdensome case backlog and the lack of a free legal aid system. Serbia is asked adopt, inter alia, a new law on free legal aid and enable smooth implementation in cooperation with main stakeholders.

The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. The country’s judicial system has some level of preparation. The situation has been backsliding since 2014 because the achievements of the last decade’s reform process have been seriously undermined by actual and potential political interference in the work of the judiciary. The authorities now need to demonstrate real political will to ensure the full independence of the judicial system, including allowing the newly-appointed Special Prosecutor to work unhindered in investigating the wiretaps and their content. Legal aid is available under the 2009 Law on Free Legal Aid but its implementation is not yet widespread.

Turkey‘s judicial system has some level of preparation. There has been no progress since early 2014. The independence of the judiciary and the principle of separation of powers have been undermined and judges and prosecutors have been under strong political pressure.